Four Former Death Row Inmates to Split Nearly $20 Million in Police Torture Case
December 8, 2007
By Fran Spielman & Frank Main, Chicago Sun-Times
Four alleged torture victims of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his detectives will divide nearly $20 million in city settlements, ending what some aldermen describe as a "nightmare."
But one alleged victim -- Madison Hobley -- will receive only $1 million of his $7.5 million share immediately. The rest is on hold because of an ongoing federal murder probe.
The City Council's Finance Committee will consider the deal Monday, and the full Council could sign off on it Wednesday.
Some black aldermen said the deal with Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange and Stanley Howard will help appointed Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis re-establish trust between citizens and police in the African-American community.
"Without it, healing will not happen," said Ald. Ed Smith (28th).
The four men say they were tortured into confessing to murders. In 2003, then-Gov. George Ryan pardoned them, and they walked away from Death Row.
Despite the settlement, Orange's attorney, Flint Taylor, said there's still unfinished business, including settling with alleged torture victim Darrell Cannon, resolving claims against Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine, and the "indictment and prosecution" of Burge.
A special prosecutor found that some of the torture allegations decades ago were valid but said Burge and the others could not face criminal prosecution because the statute of limitations had expired.
William Pedersen, 60, one of the former officers named in Patterson's lawsuit, was unhappy about the deal.
"I will end up with a cloud over my head," Pedersen said. "I did nothing. I was waiting for my day in court."
The city agreed to pay Howard $1.8 million, including $1 million to his attorney; $5.5 million to Orange; $5 million to Patterson, and $7.5 million to Hobley.
Hobley's settlement hinges on an ongoing federal re-investigation into a 1987 fire on the South Side that killed seven people. Hobley was originally convicted of murder and arson in that fire and sent to Death Row but was pardoned in 2003.
In September, city Corporation Counsel Mara Georges disclosed that the Justice Department was re-investigating the case. She said she was required to keep that information confidential until Sept. 17, when a letter from First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro released her from the obligation.
Fight for Patterson's legal fees
But lawyers for the alleged victims called her disclosure a negotiating tactic designed to smear Hobley and provide an excuse for the city's decision to back away from an earlier deal.
The current deal says Hobley can get the remaining $6.5 million only if he is not indicted by 2009, or if the U.S. attorney's office announces he won't be indicted, or if he is indicted but found not guilty.
"He's very relieved that this long and tough road is finally coming to an end," said Kurt Feuer, one of Hobley's attorneys. "He is afraid to go out in public. He is afraid of the police. Now he will be able to afford treatment and get on his feet again."
Feuer said he and co-counsel Andrea Lyon met with the U.S. attorney's office about the fire investigation and "talked about leads that should have been taken 20 years ago to find the real perpetrator."
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) was among a group of black and progressive white aldermen pressuring Mayor Daley to "end the nightmare" of torture by Burge and his underlings. "Settling promptly is a fiscally responsible thing to do, in addition to being morally right," Preckwinkle said.
Three of the alleged victims have remained free, but Patterson is serving a 30-year prison term on gun and drug charges.
In one of the strange twists in Patterson's civil case, a judge allowed Wallace "Gator" Bradley, a former gang enforcer, to sit in court with Patterson's attorney as an "urban translator" to control the volatile defendant. Now Bradley says Patterson's attorney, Frank Avila, owes him $250,000 for his work. Avila and Flint Taylor, Patterson's former lawyer, are fighting over their share of the legal fees.